back to article Astroboffin gets magnets stuck up his schnozz trying and failing to invent anti-face-touching coronavirus gizmo

We're all told from a tender age not to shove things up our noses – Lego, chickpeas, pencils, fingers – but it seems even grown-up astrophysicists can have difficulty grasping these most basic recommendations when it's in the name of science. Unfortunately for 27-year-old Dr Daniel Reardon, the items that became wedged up his …

  1. Laura Kerr

    What a hoot(er)!

    He obviously nose his stuff, but remember girls - this is what 'magnetic personality' on those dating sites really means.

    1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

      Re: What a hoot(er)!

      'S not funny, McGee!

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: What a hoot(er)!

        Beg to differ boss!

      2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: 'S not funny, McGee!

        Nope, not good to see medics in hysteresis over his plight.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: What a hoot(er)!

      My take on it was that he has a nose for interesting, new problems.

    3. Jedit
      Joke

      "this is what 'magnetic personality' on those dating sites really means"

      Please - I have amazing sexual magnetism. That's why I'm stuck to the sexual fridge.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a hoot(er)!

      At least he will bring you the iron.

      Edit: I feel I need to add a joke icon but can't as AC.

  2. knarf

    A fool and his magnets are seldom parted

    I've some neodymium magnets at home and they are powerful things.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: A fool and his magnets are seldom parted

      I've some neodymium magnets at home and they are powerful things.

      Agreed. Neodymium magnets are small (mine are 8mm diameter, 1mm thick), with nicely polished surfaces. So, If you're doing anything with more than one of these magnets at a time they are surprisingly difficult to put precisely where you want them. This is a problem when working on a table-top or workbench, let alone anywhere near your nose and, presumably, while looking in a mirror to see what you're doing.

  3. ant 2

    "...At this point I ran out of magnets."

    Dare we imagine the consequences if that hadn't been the case?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "...At this point I ran out of magnets."

      Involuntary rhinoplasty I imagine, if the magnets he was using are anything like the neodymium hard drive magnets I've got stuck to my fridge door. And I do really mean stuck, the only way to get them off is to slide them sideways...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "...At this point I ran out of magnets."

        " the only way to get them off is to slide them sideways"

        I really did know a girl like that once

        1. Ken Shabby
          Paris Hilton

          Re: "...At this point I ran out of magnets."

          Must have been very attractive.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "...At this point I ran out of magnets."

      All magnet problems can be solved with more magnets. Physics law of attraction.

      1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

        Re: "...At this point I ran out of magnets."

        > Physics law of attraction.

        More like Physics law of distraction.

  4. Hero Protagonist
    Coat

    Dabbling in fields

    “We're assuming that the astrophysicist will cease to dabble in fields away from his area of expertise.”

    Specifically, magnetic fields

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Dabbling in fields

      Think what it could do with a couple of pulsars magnetic fields.... probably the particle jets in and out his nostrils could have been "spectacular"....

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Especially when

        swallowed by the black hole he's using for a doorstop.

  5. chuBb. Bronze badge
    Pint

    Fixble in code

    Although not mentioned sounds much like the usual experiments you get in arduino starter set with some hall effect sensors. As he had it working other than the inverse of what he wanted a simple inversion of equality in his code would have fixed it, if it was all descrete electronics a transistor or not gate would have done the trick too.

    Still made me chuckle

    1. m4r35n357

      Re: Fixble in code

      This. And the "more magnets" idea. Has the bar been lowered for the term "astroboffin" recently?

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Fixble in code

        To be fair, bigger magnets seem to be the solution for lots of problems in high energy physics.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bigger magnets.

          I ran across a YouTube of a guy carefully doing some tests with very big neodymium magnets. In the range of 7-9 lbs. I was surprised you could even ship any that big. Used a large enough wooden box to keep things from getting too close.

          I don't remember him letting them stick together. And they definitely would not fit into your nose or any other body orifice.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Fixble in code

      "a simple inversion of equality in his code would have fixed it, if it was all descrete electronics a transistor or not gate would have done the trick too."

      I'm not sure about this particular astroboffin, but I have come across many very, very clever people who see a problem then come up with a massively overly complex "solution" from their own field of expertise and completely overlook the often simple everyday solutions. It's probably akin to the man with a hammer seeing every problem as a nail.

  6. Threlkeld

    More appropriate technology?

    He could have just tethered his wrists to his belt with pieces of string short enough to keep his hands from his chin. It would be irritating, I grant you, but no more so than any other device which prevents a frequent and unconscious action.

    Might have made it difficult to get his jacket on, though. Perhaps a magnetic quick-release?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. juice Silver badge

      Re: More appropriate technology?

      TBH, I did think it wouldn't be too hard to build a video-app which monitors your face and watches for any movements which bring your hands up towards your face, and beeps furiously when such happens.

      Admittedly, this does mean leaving your laptop/phone camera on and pointed at your face all the time, but...

      1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        Re: More appropriate technology?

        This would be a perfect task for a Personal Trunk Monkey!

        Tell your PTM to prevent you from touching your own face or anyone else from touching it without your explicit consent, & do it's thing (howling, biting, & flinging feces) should it detect any such attempts.

        We could use a smaller PTM (Chimp?) for clinging to the back of your head with the corset-style stays in its paws keeping your face mask on tight.

        If you're not wearing your PTM equipped backpack then everyone else's PTM gets to attack you for being a splitter. It's a self correcting problem!

        Personal Trunk Monkies for everyone! =-D

        *Happily gobbles dried frog pills like candy while making Cookie Monster noises*

    3. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: More appropriate technology?

      He could have just tethered his wrists to his belt with pieces of string short enough to keep his hands from his chin.

      Or just worn some sort of full face mask, like say a halloween mask, or one of those strapped to a trolley murderers masks. And added some spikes to it, so if you tried to touch the mask you'd jab yourself with it.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: More appropriate technology?

      "He could have just tethered his wrists to his belt with pieces of string short enough to keep his hands from his chin."

      He's clearly not up there with Dr Sheldon Cooper. He'd have remembered when he was younger and his mother strung his mittens through his coat so as not to lose them. A simple and minor change to this method would worked perfectly.

  7. HildyJ Silver badge
    Devil

    Stay in your lane

    I was particularly amused by the pliers.

    Just because you're an expert in one thing doesn't mean that you're an expert in all things. Sometimes not experimenting, especially on yourself, is the better part of valor. At least he didn't have a radiation sensor and tried to stick some uranium up his nose.

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Stay in your lane

      Just a note. El Reg' RSS feed beat the Beeb's news feed by an hour. Cheers.

    2. John Gamble
      Boffin

      Re: Stay in your lane

      "Just because you're an expert in one thing doesn't mean that you're an expert in all things."

      This, this, this. We've been seeing a lot of this during our particular plague year.

      As an aside, I heard of this story earlier from a astronomer whose Twitter account I follow, and she added that it was the second most ridiculous thing she'd heard an "expert" do so far.

      I very much want to know what beat this story, which she didn't share, unfortunately.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Stay in your lane

        You *have* to go back and ask!

    3. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Stay in your lane

      It also demonstrates quite nicely that intelligence and common sense dont always go hand in hand.

      I mean seriously, wtf was he thinking?

  8. Roger Kynaston Bronze badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    New Keyboard needed

    And my wife is getting annoyed as she has some tickly thing to do with setting an exam paper on Moodle at the moment!

  9. BoraHorzaGobuchul

    I shouldn't laugh really...

    But I've worked with many highly intelligent scientists who shouldn't be trusted with pliers, let alone powerful Neodymium magnets.

  10. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

    Flux

    The flux is strong with this one.....

    Maybe he should have used a flux capacitor.

  11. EricM

    At least he tried to DO something meaningful ...

    Contrary to people writing sarcastic comments here ...

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: At least he tried to DO something meaningful ...

      Meaningful is in the of the beholder. In this case perhaps he deserves an honorable mention in the Darwin Awards for his effort.

    2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: At least he tried to DO something meaningful ...

      You must be new here!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: At least he tried to DO something meaningful ...

      Sarcasm? Where?

      On a side note a pet cone would suffice if you were really worried about touching your face or licking your balls. No magnets needed.

  12. Andy Non Silver badge
    Coat

    Did he get

    Bi-polar disorder?

  13. TonyJ Silver badge

    Ah magnetism...

    It's been 30-odd years and I still remember the mnemonic someone came up with for working out the correct order to calculate values:

    F B H mmf phi (looks like an I) S and the genius came up with Frank Broughton has made millions fucking innocent sheep

  14. Steven Guenther

    Plot for Big Bang Theory

    This sounds like a plot for Big Bang Theory where Sheldon has to get one of the girls to help him.

    Sheldon is stuck to the refrigerator like an art project.

  15. Jamie Jones Silver badge
    Happy

    Gotta love his partner

    From the original article...

    “My partner took me to the hospital that she works in because she wanted all her colleagues to laugh at me. The doctors thought it was quite funny, making comments like ‘This is an injury due to self-isolation and boredom.’”

    1. AdamT

      Re: Gotta love his partner

      The guardian article has a picture of the discharge notice as well. Ends with the phrase " [patient] denies further magnets". Which I've assumed to be a sarcastic shortened form of: "He _said_ there were only 4 but, you know, we're dealing with someone who put 2 magnets up their nose and then put 2 more up there because he thought it would help"

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He should have tried to iron out the problem.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OR, he could have tried boxing gloves. (also useful for discouraging other unwanted habits)

    The bit about getting taken to the hospital by his GF reminded me of the hilarious Big Bang episode with the robot arm.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Downvoted just for the missuse of the word hilarious within in the context of Big Bang Theory.

      Yet to see anything which makes me laugh in that shite fest, much like stephen fry, its what dumb people think smart people are like.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        smart people

        Let me guess, you class yourself as one of the "Smart People".

        Yet not smart enough to realise it's a sitcom and not a documentary.

        1. Psmo Silver badge

          Re: smart people

          not a documentary.

          I don't know, I've had conversations that were so close I went looking around the office for recording devices.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: smart people

            It's been a few years (25) so I'll repeat this question from a former colleague.

            Are those identical twins in neighbours, twins in real life?

            1. eldakka Silver badge

              Re: smart people

              That is not really an unreasonable question.

              There are people who are unrelated to each other who look close enough to be twins. Esprcially once ytou add professional makeup that is inteded to make them look even more like identical twins, hair colourings, styling hair the same, wearinfg the same clothes, etc.

              Therrefore just because two actors look close enough to each other to be playing identical twins in a TV series or a movie doesn't mean they are actually biologically (sharing the same DNA) twins.

              Sometimes they could even be a singular person who is playing both parts with some clever filming techniques (filming the same scene twice with the one person playing one twin's part in each re-taking, then combining the recordings so the same physical person is onscreen as two different people).

              1. Denarius Silver badge

                Re: smart people

                eldakka. Agreed. I know two unrelated women who I cannot tell apart aside from speaking styles. Might be just me, but not had that problem elsewhere, except with twins.

                1. BrownishMonstr Bronze badge
                  Joke

                  Re: smart people

                  Racist!

            2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

              Re: smart people

              sometime over the last couple of years, a pair of identical twins sent samples to one one of those DNA genealogy / ancestry sites, and got completely different results from each other.. So they definitely had the same mother, quite likely had the same father, but somehow diverged at the grandparents onwards...

              Science is wonderful, especially when it is based on wearing white coats and using lots of big words..

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: smart people

                If its the twins I'm thinking of, they each sent a sample to a different lab, so it's unknown what differences were due to DNA differences between the brothers and which were the result of different lab techniques.

                1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

                  Re: smart people

                  bit of digging through archives.

                  https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/01/18/dna_twins_gene_tests/

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: smart people

          No, its just not funny, but then i have never been a fan of lowest common denominator stereotype based "comedy"

  18. Gill.Gris

    Been there, done that, got the teaspoon.

    This is quite easily done. I did it after trying to entertain my kids by sticking two neodymium magnets either side of my nose and then making some stupid noises. They didn't find that funny at all, however when I tried to slide the magnets down, off my nose, and they flipped up either side of my septum, causing me to jump around and swear a lot, they found that hilarious. Didn't need A+E though, prised them out with a teaspoon with hardly any blood but a renewed respect for rare earth elements.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Been there, done that, got the teaspoon.

      A teaspoon & a open mind.......

      However I really wouldn't have posted that without being AC, so have a pint.

  19. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    Saucepan

    He should have stuck to the age old custom of putting a saucepan over the head - no risk of accidental face touching

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Saucepan

      What's wrong with well tested and simple solutions?

      https://www.gettyimages.it/detail/foto/serious-man-wearing-dog-cone-immagine-royalty-free/108270473

  20. LDS Silver badge
    Joke

    There's a reason why astronomer study things....

    .... they can't touch!

    (Note: I wanted to become an astronomer before I changed my mind while at the university...)

    1. jtaylor

      Re: There's a reason why astronomer study things....

      LDS, same here! When I started university, I hung out with some of the astrophys majors and got scared that I might become one of them.

      Wonderful people, but their sense of reality was more negotiable than mine.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: There's a reason why astronomer study things....

        My reason was I didn't like the establishment there, most of the true boffins were OK, but the 'environment' not so much, and didn't match my character anyway.

  21. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Hackathon

    Once he's recovered from all the excitement, perhaps he can come up with a proposal or two...

    "Hackathon also have offered several themes that developers can rely on when coming up with and submitting their proposals. The health themes includes a broad range of areas, including preventative and hygiene behaviors ..."

    https://www.nextplatform.com/2020/03/30/a-hackathon-to-battle-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ran out of magnets

    Reminds me of a scene from the movie I.Q. Albert Einstein and his buddies lost a shuttlecock in a tree, and they resorted to throwing various objects into the tree to try and retrieve it.

    "Kurt Godel: I threw Podolsky's golf club up there to get even with him!"

  23. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Seems he is ignorant regarding basic circuit elements such as invertors. Or that Hall Effect sensors are available with a TTL output so can be wired with the buzzer normally on or normally off depending whether its other side is connected to Vss or Vdd

  24. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Coat

    Reality & Expectations

    were poles apart in this case.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reality & Expectations

      Not really your field is it?

  25. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    "A Saga of Sixpence"

    This sounds like the episode of "The Glums" comedy mini-soap included in BBC Radio's "Take It From Here" show in the 1950s, called "A Saga of Sixpence". It seems to be on YouTube audio and about ten minutes long.

    Ron Glum (Dick Bentley) is an idiot; one evening his long term fiance (very young June Whitfield) wonders why every now and again he is hitting himself on the head with a hammer.

    It turns out that he went to buy takeout food and had to deal with his food, the vinegar condiment bottle, and a sixpenny coin as change, and has he only has two hands... in defence he says "It is easy to be wise after the event."

    The amateur physics is sound, though!

    1. Citizen99

      Re: "A Saga of Sixpence"

      Oh, Ron !!!

      Yes, Eth ?

  26. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Homing Human

    With the magnets in place, it could have led him to pursue studies in direction finding

  27. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    If he had died ...

    would the death certificate say "Death by Misinvention?"

  28. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    A ferrule and his magnet

    are soon joined.

  29. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    Since you ask ...

    perhaps Reg-reading shed boffins can discuss how they could improve Reardon's design

    Forget magnets and the Hall Effect. Use capacitance instead. Dig up Léon Theremin and ask him. Or just look him up in Wikipedia. Less grave-robby and probably more instructive.

    Practically* speaking, wear RFID earrings and tape the emitter wand part to your forearms.

    (*anything involving duct tape counts as "practical")

  30. jake Silver badge

    To solve a problem, first you have to understand it.

    By wearing a mask, you constantly unconsciously touch your face (just watch someone for five minutes to see what I mean). This is probably the worst infection vector, and one that no quantity of masks can protect you from.

    So the obvious solution to the problem is to not wear a mask for protection from the virus. No electronics or magnets needed. KISS

    Note that this solution is in keeping with what actual medical experts have repeatedly stated, i.e. that wearing a facemask does no good whatsoever, unless you are infected with the virus ... and then they are there to keep you from inadvertently getting spit/snot on other people, thus infecting them. Most of the same experts have gone on to point out the reality of my opening paragraph.

    QED

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: To solve a problem, first you have to understand it.

      So as a measure of enlightened self interest everyone should wear masks* - the reduction in transmissions (from the infected) means the infection rate will be lower before onset of symptoms and anyone needing ventilation has a better chance of being able to get it.

      Also anyone, no matter how healthy, has an infection level that their body cannot handle, pick up a big enough dose of live virus at initial contact and you stand a far greater risk of your immune system failing to cope.

      *Isolation is the only alternative

  31. Muscleguy Silver badge
    Coat

    Change disciplines

    I find it very easy not to touch my face. I volunteer front of house in a charity shop and never do that while front of house. When I get off shift I immediately wash and properly dry my hands (govt exhortations to wash our hands fail to tell us to dry them properly, wet or damp hands spread diseases).

    But then as a Biomedical scientist I have done tissue culture and sterile surgery and had my gloved hands covered in biological material and/or solvents so putting them near my mucus membranes is deeply, deeply contraindicated. All this in my professional life made the not touching my face outside it a cinch as the mindsets required are almost identical.

    Instead of inventing tech, work on your mind and practice, practice, practice. Biology and Chemistry undergrads get such practice in teaching labs. It would seem our colleagues in Physics didn’t get the memo.

    The coat is of course a white labcoat and I wear a medium pair of, ideally nitrile, gloves.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Change disciplines

      So simple even a biomdeical scientist can do it! One only needs many years experience developing the no-touchy-facey habit in a profession where inadvertent face touching is strongly verboten.

      Excellent. Something we can all beneift from, then.

      (Sorry for the snark, it's just that most people have a lifetime of developing bad habits, not a lifetime of conciously avoiding them.)

  32. Dave Rickmers

    Hand Soap with Capsacin Oil

    The weapons grade stuff. Don't touch yer Willy.

    1. WereWoof

      Re: Hand Soap with Capsacin Oil

      Been there, Done that, Never Ever again . . . .

  33. kraftdinner

    Ach-oooo

    Thank god he didn't sneeze - he'd blow an O-ring for sure...

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